Why England Will NEVER Win The World Cup
Being a youth football coach (or soccer coach to some) in the UK for nearly three years now, the one thing I have noticed and focused on with my team is teaching my team how to keep possession. It’s a simple concept, but unless it is coached thoroughly and inspirationally, many English youngsters just don’t seem to get it.
I’m not the best coach in the world – far from it. I voluntarily coach a youth team of 14 year olds and under, and I like it that way. The one thing I have noticed, however, is why England’s footballing problems start at the grassroots, with kids in parks and schools.
Before I get more in-depth, I want to tell you about a short article I remember reading from a Spanish coach some time ago – around the time Spain dominated the international team. This coach, quite casually, explained that Spain’s success started at the youth level, and by youth level I don’t mean professional academies. This coach explained that in the streets of Spain, children – no older than 10 years old – would play football every day after school. There would be goalposts already up, and it would usually be right in the middle of a residential area, with houses on almost all sides.
The children would play matches amongst themselves for hours, and they would be playing every single evening of the week. Their style of football was far more advanced than what I used to play in an English school – these Spanish children would be playing one touch, possession football, for hours and hours on end. They’d be confident in themselves and in their teammates, and all of them would move into space. They hadn’t been coached to play like this, as it was just the way Spanish football is that caused it. What surprised me the most though wasn’t the one touch possession football from these children – this is how football is now – but the fact that the coach said people would come out of their homes, put down a deckchair, and watch and cheer these children on for hours on end.
This story made a huge impact on me. I’ll never forget it, and overnight it changed my coaching focus.
After reading the article, I felt quite sad to be honest. When I was a child I played football constantly – whether it was kicking a ball against a wall, playing in the park, playing at school on concrete, whatever. There would often be other kids I’d play football with; albeit not many, but I could usually always find a game. However, to hear that so many children in Spain – often two teams full, at any one time – would play to the delight of an older crowd, it made me wonder why Englishmen even question why the national team is nowhere near the standard of teams like Spain.
In many parts of England, I’m willing to bet that if you were to take a football near a green area in a residential area, one of three things would happen. 1) There would be a ‘No Ball Games’ sign up. Of course, you could ignore this, but then 2) An angry homeowner would rush outside – not to cheer you on, but to tell you to “£#$* off” before they called the police. But if none of this happened, then 3) There would be nobody to play a match with, as they would all be indoors… on their games consoles.
So it’s no wonder that when I see my team finally get to kick a ball twice a week for 3 hours in total, they all want to dribble past 15 people and score the winner themselves. They’re so starved of football, so focused on scoring and being the hero themselves, that they forget that football is a team game. Nobody wants to play in defence, because they see it as an unskilled, boring position to play in where all you have to do is hoof the ball up field to the number 9.
And this is exactly where England have gone wrong. Everybody wants to play upfront and score, nobody wants to play in defence, and passing is a ridiculous concept when you’re 15 and below.
But look at Ramos, Pique and Puyol. When watching them play for Spain, they often have more touches and passes than Xavi and Iniesta. They’re comfortable with one touch, two touch football, comfortable in possession, and can pass almost as well as anyone else on the team. Compare this to John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Gary Cahill… I’m sure I don’t have to write any more.
I’m not attacking the English way of playing football – I loved it as a child. But for the England national team to do well, a whole mindset shift needs to happen, because long ball to the number 9 is completely outdated. One touch passing, finding space and possession football need to be ingrained in children from a very young age, long ball should be an absolute last resort, and beautiful football should be encouraged in communities. If people let children play football near them, instead of lobbying councils to ban football games, I’m confident the England team would be in a much better position.
Do you agree? Or do you think something else needs to change? Let me know in the comments below.